For the next three days, the Rainforest Alliance will be participating in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio+20 will provide a historic opportunity for world leaders, governments, NGOs and the private sector to come together to shape a plan for reducing poverty, advancing social equity and ensuring environmental protection on an increasingly crowded planet. In honor of the milestone event, we’re taking a closer look at some of our work in Brazil…
Raising Sustainable Cattle
Proving that cattle, wildlife and the environment can coexist, Fazendas Sao Marcelo – whose four properties span 79,000 acres (32,000 hectares) in Brazil’s cerrado (wooded grassland) and Amazon regions — recently became the first in the world to earn Rainforest Alliance certification for sustainable cattle production.
With multiple protected areas, including a 32,000-acre (13,000-hectare) reserve within the Amazon, Sao Marcelo helps to buffer the natural forest and provide shelter and migration routes for wildlife. Its cattle are kept away from riparian areas and workers replant degraded land. Cowboys are also prohibited from killing local wildlife, even predatory animals that might attack calves.
In addition to protecting wildlife habitat, certified ranches must ensure that the cattle are well-treated. Sao Marcelo’s 60,000 head of cattle have tree covered pastures, which shield them from high temperatures, wind and rain. On-farm treatment and vaccination stations are designed to minimize stress on the animals, and cattle transport drivers are taught to drive carefully.
Climate-Friendly Coffee Farming
Biologists have found rare macaws, owls, jaguar tracks and a giant anteater in the protected areas of Daterra, a farm in southeastern Brazil known as much for its superior beans as its commitment to conservation and climate-friendly farming. The famous fazenda – located in Brazil’s cerrado, an enormous flat, grassy plateau — is owned by philanthropist and coffee expert Luis Norbeto Pascoal, who added coffee to his family’s agribusiness in 1974.
While Daterra has always been guided by a strict environmental ethos, today it is truly a leader in climate- and wildlife-friendly farming. In 2003, the 14,800-acre (6000-hectare) farm became the first in Brazil to earn Rainforest Alliance certification. Last year, it achieved another milestone, becoming the second coffee estate in the world to earn Rainforest Alliance verification for climate-friendly practices, a voluntary add-on to Rainforest Alliance certification.
When the farm began working to meet the climate criteria, it found that many of its practices were already climate-friendly. After the assessment, it learned that it was actually sequestering more carbon than it was producing, which will enable the farm to earn extra income from selling carbon credits. “Climate-friendly coffee is the future,” explains Pascoal. “We don’t have a choice.”
Earning Carbon Credits
The Paiter Surui of the Brazilian Amazon are the world’s first indigenous group to be validated under climate standards, allowing them to sell carbon credits in return for protecting and restoring forests in their territory. The Suruí Forest Carbon Project (SFCP) was validated by the Rainforest Alliance and partner Imaflora against the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Alliance Standard 2nd Edition, Gold Level standard as well as the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
By providing communities like the Suruí with an economic incentive to conserve their forests, climate validation programs serve the goals laid out in the first Rio Earth Summit. In exchange for conserving large areas of tropical forest, the Suruí can access the market for carbon credits. Companies looking to offset their carbon emissions can buy these credits and help to reduce emissions. Forest carbon projects provide a successful platform for incentivizing both forest conservation and climate change mitigation — urgent focal points of the Rio+20 Earth Summit.